Friday 24 November 2017

Leading Spanish role eases Martin Tour blow

Gerard Cromwell

Ireland's Daniel Martin won't be joining cousin Nicolas Roche on the start line when the Tour de France gets under way from Passage de Gois a week today, having been left out of the Garmin Cervelo team in favour of a leadership role at the Tour of Spain in August.

Martin is the youngest yet most prolific of the current batch of Irish professionals, notching up five victories last year, including the week long Tour of Poland -- the first ever ProTour stage race win by an Irish rider.

The 24-year-old climber is in fine form at the moment, with a win at last weekend's 1.1-ranked Giro della Toscana one-day race in Italy putting pressure on his Garmin-Cervelo team boss Jonathon Vaughters to select his young Irish protege for the Tour de France this year.

But Martin put paid to all speculation when he disclosed yesterday that he will not be making his Tour debut next week.

"The Tour is the biggest race of the year, but the team have still got doubts as to whether I'm ready for it and whether I can show myself in a Grand Tour," said a disappointed Martin yesterday.

"Obviously, being part of one of the best teams in the world means it's always going to be difficult to make the Tour team. We have a super strong outfit this year and the guys have proven themselves in big three-week races before, whereas I've never ridden the Tour before. It's true what Jonathon says.

"We can't all be winners and there are guys that are going to the Tour simply to help other guys. If it was the best nine riders, I would be going, but that's not always the case. I'm still really young and have got plenty of time ahead of me."

Martin will now focus on a strong end-of-season campaign, which will include an attempt to retain his Tour of Poland title before heading to Spain for the Vuelta Espana in August.

"I've prepared myself to go to the Vuelta as team leader. Since the start of the season, Jonathon has always talked to me about going to the Vuelta as team leader and showing that I can ride for general classification so that I can go to the Tour next year with ambition rather than going just to help somebody.

"The fact that Jonathon has shown the confidence in me, to talk about going to the Vuelta as team leader and riding for the general classification, says a lot. I'd prefer to try to do well at the Vuelta than ride around France getting hammered."

Before all that though, Martin will line up in Scotstown, Monaghan, for the national road-race championships tomorrow in a bid to regain the title he last won in 2008.

"In the meantime, I can try to continue winning bike races," he says. "That's what makes me happy. I'm in good form at the moment and hope to be able to put up a good fight for the champion's jersey. I enjoyed wearing it in 2008 and would love to wear it at the Vuelta this year.

"There's a very strong field though, with all of the guys like Nico (Roche), Philip (Deignan) and Matt (Brammeier) back home for it, but there's no pressure, really. All of the pressure is on Matt to defend his title. I'm really looking forward to it."

The elite road-race championship gets under way at 11.0 tomorrow from Scotstown's main street and will take in a 25km lap through Knockatallon Cross, Killylough, Tydavnet, Lemacaulla Cross, Connolly's Bridge, Ballinode and then back to Scotstown. The 175km event is due to finish around 4.0.

Irish Independent

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